David: Cruising the Mon and Brec

Published: Thursday, 28 September 2017

IN ACCORDANCE with our policy of accessing those parts of the system we cannot reach in our own boat we have just come back from a week on the Mon and Brec in a hire boat.

Brecon terminusThis came from Beacon Park Boats at Llangattock, whose new yard is the cleanest and best organised I have ever seen. They even had a man in waders in the water painting out the scratches on the gunwales from the previous week.

The boat was also very good, except that it suffered, as all modern hire boats seem to, with a rather poky galley. The assumption seems to be that people will eat most of their main meals out, which is probably reasonable. (The photograph is of the Brecon terminus.)

The canal, though slow, is beautiful with some lovely views of the Brecon Beacons for most of its length and there are plenty of places to moor, with no sign of continuous moorers; in fact nearly all the boats we saw moving were other hire boats, there are at least six fleets on the canal. Water points and rubbish disposal are more frequent than is generally the case on the main system and all the locks (there are only six) were well maintained with no significant leakage. Since the locks are 9 feet wide with single top gates these gates must be the heaviest user operated ones on the system, but they presented no problems.

Scenery 1Llangattock is near the centre of the canal, so we opted to go south first, especially as everyone else went north. This took us to the canal's current southern terminus at Pontnewydd, just outside Cwmbran. Here the canal once began a descent through 26 locks to the sea at Newport.

There is a theoretical plan to restore this, but it would be extremely expensive and in my view there are several other restoration schemes which would be more deserving and more useful. In fact the state of the canal between Pontymoile and the terminus suggests that very few boats bother with it; it was shallower than the rest and had a fair amount of weed; it was also by a long way the least picturesque part of the trip. Still, we ticked it off. (The photograph below is of the southern terminus.)

Southern terminusWe then cruised the whole length of the canal to Brecon, where a fine new terminus has been created with plenty of mooring. A far cry from when I first saw it in the seventies; then the original terminus had been filled in and all there was was a winding hole by a concrete wall. Altogether an excellent trip and credit is due to British Waterways/CaRT and the Welsh Government for keeping the canal in being, despite several catastrophic breaches in the last few years.

Rugby moorings

Kevin McNiff is being a bit negative about the new moorings at Rugby. The old ones north of bridge 58 were always a pain to use, as they had an underwater concrete shelf which made it impossible to get anywhere near the bank. Boats have always moored to the towpath south of the bridge, usually using the old railway line to tie up to. There has always been a water point on the park side, as well as four or five boats worth of mooring.

Kevin is right that some of this is on a bend, but CaRT have installed rings virtually all the way to bridge 59 and there is quite a lot of space for normal length boats. I first came across the new arrangements in August and it was a bit tight just south of 58, with boats on both sides - I'm glad no-one was coming the other way. I would suggest that the best thing to do would be to eliminate the offside moorings on the park, leaving only the water point. Of course, the main drawback of these new moorings is that they will be very attractive to the continuous moorers, as they are very handy for Tesco and Rugby station.


Anecdotal evidence suggests that cillings and subsequent sinkings of boats in narrow locks seem to be on the increase and no-one seems to know why. It occurs to me that one possible explanation might be people, especially the more inexperienced hirer, using the bollards which British Waterways insisted on installing at every narrow lock in the country in the sacred name of safety.. Normally when you empty a narrow lock the boat drifts gently forward with the water flow, safely removing it from any risk of hanging up on the cill. If, however, you choose to prevent this movement by roping round a bollard then the boat is held back neatly over the cill. One has to sympathise with the hirer - after all if this is not the purpose of the bollards, what on earth are they there for?


CaRT seem to be stealthily adopting a new policy towards routine maintenance stoppages. In the past these have been confined to the 'stoppage season' from November to March but recently they have been moving into the cruising season. The Editor knows better than I about this policy affecting the Leicester line and now they are carrying out work to replace the top gate of Yew Tree lock on the Trent and Mersey over a period of a month. The notices for this are a bit difficult to understand, since they seem to imply that the canal will remain open. It is difficult to see how, given the huge amount of fencing and other safety gear that now seems to be needed on these occasions.

Alan Baker's comment about the stoppage at Adderley being done overnight is interesting. It suggests that CaRT are experimenting with different ways of approaching stoppages, which is fair enough, but I do think it should explain exactly what they are up to.

At least CaRT do try to limit the length of their stoppages, unlike the EA that have announced that Blake's Lock, at the entrance to the Kennet & Avon, will be closed for the whole winter while they 'refurbish' (not replace) the gates, thus cutting the K&A off from the rest of the system, unless you fancy the Bristol Channel. This, of course, is standard EA practice: the Thames is severed as a through route every winter by one more stoppages.

David Hymers